NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Foreign Aid Gains Political Support

December 4, 2001

Polls have shown that Americans view foreign aid with suspicion -- with some convinced that sending their tax dollars abroad is a waste of resources. The result is that the share of the federal budget devoted to foreign aid has declined steadily since World War II.

But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have convinced a number of Washington politicians that the sums should be increased. A bipartisan Senate resolution introduced last month would triple the amount of money the U.S. sends overseas over the next five years.

  • Since the late 1940s, the proportion of the federal budget devoted to foreign aid has declined from more than 15 percent to 0.72 percent this year.
  • Top recipients of U.S. foreign aid in 2000 were Israel and Egypt -- at $4 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively.
  • Other top beneficiaries include Colombia, the Palestinian West Bank/Gaza, Jordan, Russia, Bolivia, Ukraine, Kosovo and Peru.
  • As a proportion of gross domestic product, Denmark leads in foreign aid spending at 1.06 percent, not including military assistance -- followed by the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Luxemburg, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom.

The United Nations would like to see countries give at least 0.70 percent of GDP -- the exact amount pledged by Luxemburg. Not including military assistance, the U.S. contributes 0.10 percent of GDP.

Critics say that too often U.S. aid has been skimmed off by corrupt foreign governments, or wasted on projects and programs that undercut the growth of important economic sectors in recipient countries.

Source: Kathy Kiely, "Importance of Foreign Aid Is Hitting Home," USA Today, December 4, 2001.

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